Category Archives: Traditions

Making Money


So we had a run over a year ago at teaching thing 1 about money. How to save it, having pocket money, how to spend it. It didn’t go that well. For one, we as adults don’t keep cash around. So giving her a cash money allowance was reliant on us having cash. We gave her some and she immediately wanted to go out and spend it. She also didn’t quite make the connection on how much she had vs how much items cost. But lately she’s been making noise about wanting to buy some specific things. So I thought we’d take another run at this whole pocket money thing. Except the ‘we don’t really keep cash around’ thing came up again. Actually I have a small stash I use for paying for school things since they haven’t implemented online payments and for a while I got out extra money when grocery shopping (which I’d often forget and it was a pain) to pay Karate, but basically we don’t do cash.

Anyhow. My brilliant, if I do say so myself, idea was to give her fake money. I considered play dollar store coins or some kind of Monopoly or other play money, but I ended up printing out some clip art coins, letting them colour the coins in, cutting them out and laminating them. Mainly as it didn’t involve leaving the house and if one of the other kids eats them or something I can make more.


Right now I have some variable value coupon coins and some set value coupon coins. Thing 1 will earn a variable value coin every day regardless. At the end of the week she can redeem them for an agreed upon amount. Right now it’s probably $5. I reserve the right to bump it up to $6 (her age) if things go well. Or she can continue to save for a higher value item. Then we have some $0.10, $0.20 and $0.50 coins that she can earn by doing chores above and beyond her usual chores. She’s quite excited about the idea and has already earned $0.50 for picking up the lounge. I played with the idea of being able to fine her coupon coins as punishment, but not yet, not until money is firmly entrenched and if we can’t find other things that get through.


Here’s the setup:



And the finished product all coloured in, laminated and cut out:20161007_141910.jpg


Excuse me while I sprain my arm patting myself on the back.


The importance of the 6th Birthday party.


This is way overdue, having happened about 3 months ago, but hey. I wrote it down. Here it is.


Here at least children start school shortly after their 5th birthday. There’s no set cutoff or anything, they just enter year round more or less. So the 6th birthday party is the first birthday party with classmates. And classmates parents. Most likely these are the kids your child will travel through primary school with. Believe it or not social striations are already being formed and lines drawn. I know I wasn’t really prepared for the Machiavellian bullshit that is six-year-old girl social politics, but there it is.

Things to consider for the party:

Venue: This is the first party for a lot of people where you meet the parents. They are gonna judge you and your house. You can have it at your house, but I recommend a venue for a neutral location. Less awkward small talk too, but the get to know you opportunity is still there. Save the home party for when they turn seven. The nice things about venues is they provide activities, often have a set party length, and may provide food.

Expense: If considering a venue consider the amount of children the cost provides for, if there is food provided and so on. It’s really easy to go overboard. We got a venue that allowed for up to 20 children, but then had to provide our own food (which I think came in at about half the cost of the venue- and that’s with me making the fruit, meat/cheese and cracker platters and cakes). Another venue I attended a party at was similarly priced to the one I chose, but provided for 6-8 children and provided food.


The date: This is a difficult one because you don’t really know when other birthday parties are going to be. For instance the weekend I was having my child’s party there were FOUR birthday parties scheduled in her class. She was invited to attend two of them (not including hers) and had to make a choice. Or rather I had to make a choice. In addition you have to consider how churchy your area is and if a Sunday morning party will lack for attendees. School holidays, the weekends before and after school breaks will be busier for parties, while you aren’t as likely to get as many attendees during the holidays. If you can coordinate with other parents do so. Otherwise it’s first in best dressed. Six weeks is too early to hand out an invitation and under two weeks is cutting it close. Three-four weeks is reasonable timing to get the priority spot

Specifying rules and expectations: I put on my invitations that siblings were welcome. I wanted an inclusive party without people having to leave babies and such at home. My kids’ siblings were attending, so why not the siblings of her classmates? If you do this you may also want to specify that parents should stay. Anyone who doesn’t stay make sure you have contact information.


The invitation exchange: Kids will use friendship as a weapon and birthday party invites as barter material. If you get an invite to someone’s party (and attend), it’s kind of courteous to extend an invite to your party.


The RSVP: Expect people to not do this. Seems to be the current trend. I managed to get yes or no RSVPs for all but five out of 14 invitees. Many of them gave the yes/no to me during the school run, but, ulterior motives, I have texts from some of them as well. So now I have some of my kids’ friends’ parent’s numbers. I’m not that creepy I swear. Prepare extra food. Expect extra food. Expect some no-shows and some unexpected attendees. Mostly expect to have extra food though. Plan to have extra food. Better too much than not enough. I made up some unnamed goody bags for the people that decided to show without RSVPing and I was glad I did.


Budgeting: Venue costs will vary by location and that’s one expense, but food, goody bags and favours, plates and accoutrements, cake and so on are all other things to consider. Preparing for other birthday parties can also be quite expensive. Right now I’m maintaining a stockpile of girl and boy toys in the closet. I buy things on sale and when I make an online purchase from a place with flat rate shipping I also buy some kid toys. Then when a party comes along I just have my kid pick one out of the closet. Getting out to pick toys for a myriad of parties is a huge time expense for me.


The gift: I’m a terrible over thinker on toys. The truth is I’m not sure if kids care that much. I’m in a position where I don’t know these kids. I’m making judgements on what they like from what they have on their backpack.


Here’s what it looked like:

Rainbow themed fruit kebabs


Rainbow cone cakes with whipped cream cheese frosting. And sprinkles.20160703_101933

The setup and venue (a gym with trampoline and foam pit) Chips, meat, cheese, crackers and other snack platters. Also sushi.20160703_101945

The inside of the cake.20160703_104648

The dragon birthday cake.


Apparently I made this look really good. I say it’s more about the angles of my photos than anything. Also the cake (a basic sponge, raspberry flavoured) went largely uneaten. So far Thing 1 is interested in fancy looking cakes and Thing 2 is interested in good tasting cakes (she got ice cream and cake crammed into novelty molds for her 2nd birthday. They turned out like lumps of cake and ice cream, which isn’t a bad thing necessarily, but they did get eaten).

So the cake process.

I looked around and there seemed to be a fair amount of dragon and dinosaur tutorials. They mostly involved cutting shapes out of round cakes and sticking them together. I could work with that. Just to be on the safe side I bought a dinosaur puzzle cake mold

(like this )

in case my experimentation was a complete failure.

So here’s the process more or less:

I thought I had pictures of this bit, but apparently not. So I’ll describe it.

You need:

2 circular cakes

A knife

Fondant or some kind of decorative frosting

Butter cream or some kind of sticky frosting

Garnish type things.

A pan or plate to assemble the cake on.

What to do:

Cut one circular cake into two semi-circles.

Use butter cream to stick them together into one thicker semi-circle. Turning this flat side down (so the semi-circle forms a hump) stick it to the cake plate.

With the other circular cake you want to cut out these type of shapes:


More or less. That’s not my picture. I cut out the tail and the rest was various rectangles. Then I stuck the tail to the semi-circle, stuck the legs on the side (all with butter cream), cut a smaller chunk for the head to rest on as the neck (I may have held pieces in place with a toothpick where necessary), and put the head on top of the neck stub to give it a real 3D appearance, as opposed to laying the head and neck out straight on the cake plate.

All stuck together, added some extra butter cream and started adding my fondant.

Now I started with white, but Thing 1 wanted a purple dragon so I used regular old food colouring and icing sugar until the fondant wasn’t sticky (think you are supposed to use gel colour, but uh, yeah. I didn’t), kneaded it until I got tired (so it was still kind of swirly because my hands hurt), rolled it out and placed it on. Now I didn’t roll out big sheets because I didn’t have very much counter space, and I’m surprised it turned out looking as nice as it did. All camera angles I promise, it was all stuck together looking up close, though I did get it smoothed out some by using water and the back of a spoon.

I used white chocolate buttons (cut up) for fangs and teeth and decorations, and marshmallows for dragon treasure.

So here’s the finished product:




20140701_154440 20140701_113929

20140701_124601 20140701_124614



So yeah, that’s my fancy cake. No one really ate it. Even after we peeled off the fondant and tossed it.


Traditions: Halloween


This is the first in a small series on Traditions. Since we live far away from all our family we are free to reinvent any and all of our family and holiday traditions.

I loved Halloween as a kid. Favourite holiday hands down. New Zealand does not love Halloween.

I’ve seen people talk about how they leave their sprinklers on all night, leave their dog tied to the gate and so on. To me it’s similar to people blithely talking about kicking puppies. I’m horrified that people hate it so much.

Arguments I have heard against it:

Why are we teaching our kids it’s ok to beg for candy from strangers when we teach them the rest of the time that candy and talking to strangers is not ok? First of all, just what?The idea that it’s begging baffles me honestly.  But Christmas and presents are ok, and celebrating Guy Fawkes is A-OK? Nah, that argument is feeble.

It’s American commercialism being forced on us. It’s about  the least commercial holiday I can think of and the DIY option has always been popular for costumes and yard decorations. Candy not so much, but it’s nothing compared to Christmas, Easter (present baskets are a common thing now, it’s not just eggs and candy), or Valentines Day.

It’s not seasonal. Valid, but yeah, neither is Easter and that’s a 4 day weekend here where things are significantly less religious than the US.

People aren’t used to it so it can be alarming, especially for older people. This is one I can respect. I’m not about to go foisting my preference for Halloween on unsuspecting people. If/when we do get to a point or neighborhood where trick or treating seems ok I will be doing the send a letter around with balloons people can put on their mailboxes if they want to participate thing. I like the idea of letting people opt in.

So suffice to say it’s not really a thing here and while it’s trying to catch on (driven by a retailer or two)  it seems a lot of people are strongly opposed to it. So that sucks. For the first few years of Thing 1’s life we could get by with not really doing anything because there was (and is) nothing much to do and she was little and didn’t know about it. So mostly I was just sad that it’s not acceptable to dress up, and that trick or treating is frowned upon.

Anyhow, this year is different. I’m cautiously excited that we can do something and I won’t have to be sad that I’m ignoring my favourite holiday because it’s not done here. In her three year old wisdom, Thing 1 has cottoned on that Halloween is a thing. And she is excited (because it’s awesome!). So if we lived somewhere trick or treating friendly we would do that. But we do not. I’m not even sure if there are any trunk or treat or other activities on. I’ve seen some non scary costume school fairs and an Indian light show thing (Diwali) that people around here think is somehow equivalent or related (I don’t get it), but nothing free or casual like trick or treating. So she will dress up for daycare.

But what about the candy? Thing 1 came up a few weeks ago with the gem that the monster under her bed would leave her candy. At first I was all D’aww, how cute and misunderstood. Then I thought about it and decided it was a cute idea I could implement. So I have some little pumpkin buckets with a small amount of candy and some glow sticks in them. I will leave them under her bed and she can find them in the morning of Halloween. I think it’s a neat new tradition.


Have to have two for jealousy control.